One-Minute Answers by Stephen R. Gibson

Contents of One-Minute Answers

Do Only Prophets Think For the Church?

Question: Is it true that for members of your church, once the prophet speaks the thinking has been done?
While most members have a strong testimony that the Church President is a prophet, that doesn't mean they should believe that everything he says is spoken in his role as a prophet. Perhaps Joseph Smith said it best: "that a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such" (History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 265).

"The thinking has been done" philosophy may have been crystallized as a result of a June 1945 Ward Teaching Message that all but our detractors have long since forgotten. They love dredging up little-known statements and trying to establish those ideas as church doctrine or position rather than the exceptions that they are.

Let us read a quote from the message and then see what the President of the Church wrote about that particular Ward Teaching Message, just a few months after it appeared. Obviously the detractors never quote the President's letter since it doesn't support their thesis. Is it too much to hope that once the detractors read this letter from the President of the Church, they would stop quoting the 50-year-old Ward Teaching Message?

First the June 1945 message: "When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan—it is God's plan. When they point the way, there is no discussion, it should mark the end of controversy," stated a part of the ward teaching message printed in the
Improvement Era, June 1945, p. 345.

For the full story, a letter from President George Albert Smith, in response to a query about this particular ward teaching directive, needs to be considered. The message "was not prepared by one of our leaders," he writes. "However, one or more of them inadvertently permitted the paragraph to pass uncensored. By their so doing, not a few members of the Church have been upset in their feelings, and General Authorities have been embarrassed. I am pleased to assure you that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church (President Smith's November 16, 1945, letter to J. Raymond Cope, Ph.D.).

Most other presidents of the Church have shared similar thoughts. Brigham Young, strong authoritative leader that he was, was greatly concerned about blind obedience, or members failing to seek spiritual confirmation regarding the pronouncements of church leaders:

I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 9, p. 150).
One of the most often-taught concepts in the Church today is found in D & C section 9. Here the Lord teaches us to analyze what we hear, reach a decision, and then pray for confirmation.

In addition to revelations, the prophets also issue advice, make pronouncements, policy, and give personal opinions. In pioneer days, they advised on subjects ranging from how to plant crops to what business ventures one should enter. Theirs was usually sound advice, but there was always room for independent thinking.

Generally, pronouncements from the prophets become doctrine only after they are voted upon by the Church members and canonized. Revelations and admonitions from our church leaders should be pondered, then prayerfully submitted before the Lord by individual members, that they may know for themselves whether the Lord has spoken. Contrary to what anti-Mormon detractors say, when our leaders speak, it is time for thinking to begin, not to end.

As a people we should listen closely to every word the prophets state. Anything less would be pure foolishness. Because God loves us, he has blessed us with prophets through all dispensations. He has not changed. He has also blessed us with great minds and promised us answers to our prayers, after we have done our own careful thinking.